New figures have revealed the number of babies who were stillborn or died within 28 days of their birth in Northumberland.

The figures come as a new report by MPs calls for more work to be done to make maternity services safer across England.

The Government pledged to halve the number of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths nationally by 2025.

Office for National Statistics data shows that in Northumberland, nine babies were stillborn in 2019 ⁠– the year for which the latest data is available.

That meant around four in every 1,000 babies in the area were stillborn that year.

A further seven newborns died within 28 days of birth ⁠– equating to a rate of approximately three in every 1,000.

The figures do not show if any of the deaths could have been prevented or were the result of failings by maternity services.

An inquiry by the parliamentary health and social care committee said the country's baby death rates had improved significantly but that general progress on improving safety following "shocking failures" at some NHS trusts was too slow.

Northumberland's figures matched the national statistics which showed around four in every 1,000 babies delivered in England and Wales were stillborn in 2019 and around three in 1,000 died before they were a month old, with those born to black or Asian mothers significantly more likely to die.

The committee's report said that the Government's commitment to halve the rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths was not achieving equitable outcomes.

Jenna Wall, head of midwifery for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We understand that every death of a baby is very distressing and upsetting for families. There are many contributing factors for stillbirths and infant mortality and our trust constantly reviews how we can further improve our maternity services and the support we offer.

“This includes our continuity of carer pathway, where Mums-to-be see the same midwife throughout their pregnancy, supporting Mums to stop smoking, additional scans where needed and we also have a specialist preterm birth clinic. We are also focussing further on health inequalities in relation to maternity services and will do what we can to address these.”

Chief midwifery officer Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, who is developing an equity strategy, said the NHS had achieved a 25% reduction in stillbirths over the course of a decade and welcomed a £95m Government funding boost announced earlier this year.

However, she told the inquiry some of the people using maternity services had to contend with social and financial deprivation, inequality, discrimination and racism, adding: "I cannot categorically say when we will close the gap on equity."

Clea Harmer, chief executive of stillbirth and neonatal death charity SANDS called for an in-depth investigation and the introduction of targets to tackle the disparities.

She said: "Babies should not be at a higher risk of death simply because of their parents' postcode, ethnicity or income."

The inquiry found that the Government's overall progress toward meeting its own maternity safety goals required improvement and said maternity services should receive an extra £350m funding each year with immediate effect to ensure workforce levels and training standards could be improved.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said maternity safety was a priority for the Government and that no parent or baby should have to suffer avoidable harm during childbirth.

They added: "We know there is more to be done, and the Government is backing NHS maternity leaders with investment to help improve workplace culture, while also funding a plan to reduce birth-related brain injuries and better match maternity staffing to local needs.

“A strong workplace culture only makes a difference when the NHS has the staff it needs, which is why we are growing the maternity workforce with a £95m recruitment drive.”